ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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A South Asian City in the Time of COVID-19

Intensifying Urbanities in Karachi

Millennial Karachi is an “intense city” with compounding precarities of varying scales. The COVID-19 pandemic has added yet another layer of uncertainty. Through an engagement with the concept of the intense city, the pandemic’s regulation and hopeful prospects in the state’s new welfare policies are considered. 


In the end, I would say the current government’s order is this: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, Corona will be on leave and people will do the business. On Friday, Saturday and Sunday, people will be on leave and Corona will do its business. If you are not standing with the truth, then history will not be concerned whether people were in a mosque or in evil’s brothel.

— Interview, male daily wager, Orangi Town, Karachi, August 2020.

Since February 2020, the Sindh provincial government has implemented a variety of regulations and policies to contain the COVID-19 pandemic in Karachi: from aggressive testing and strict lockdowns to quarantining, social distancing, and rapid roll-out of large vaccination centres. In doing so, it has been applauded for a decisive leadership and for providing lessons to the federal government and other provinces (Dawn 2020). These measures have been complemented by a range of countrywide relief policies, such as a $900-million economic relief package for 12 million poor families that were provided PKR 12,000 ($73) to cover their necessities for four months. This scheme was part of the federal government’s Ehsaas Emergency Cash programme to mitigate an economic and public health disaster in the broader context of the International Monetary Fund-backed austerity. Ehsaas is a large-scale, multisectoral programme initiated in 2019 by the Poverty Alleviation and Social Safety Division, Government of Pakistan, consisting over 130 policies and programmes, including cash disbursement, ration distribution, among others.1 Despite these measures, the picture on ground in Karachi reveals a landscape shot through with vulnerabilities, socio-spatial inequalities heightened by the impacts of climatological instability, and brutal state actions for urban flooding risk mitigation that have left the poor, working class, and marginalised people without protection of shelter and livelihoods.

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Updated On : 31st Jan, 2022
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